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Nathaniel Mellors
Box No. 1/2

Nathaniel Mellors /UK/
two films and one installation

The central theme in Nathaniel Mellors’ work is the manipulation of language. He is interested in the politics of language; exploring its ‘use value’ in different ways through his own invented scenarios and narratives. Mellors writes his own texts and explores different approaches to the performance of these texts in a variety of media.
Parodying the formats and structures through which information is popularly conveyed – such as the television drama, political broadcast, critical analysis, or avant-garde plays - Mellors sets up theatrical frameworks to test the line between meaningful content and incomprehensibility. At the core of his practice lies a fascination with the relationship between word and effect.

Giantbum (2009) takes as its subject an absurdist script written by Mellors in which a group of medieval explorers become lost inside a giant’s body. They are starving and desperate to find a way out when their religious leader, The Father, returns from an expedition into the giant’s bowels. He is half-insane, having turned to cannibalism and coprophilia in order to survive. Unable to admit to his activities, he invents nonsensical, metaphysical concepts in his defence, proclaiming the group to be lost inside God with a tribe of cannibal-zombies guarding the exit. A battle between rationalism and superstition ensues. These themes are explored through contrasting stagings of the script using the same performers: a performance that looks like a rehearsal, a film shot in an empty theatre, and a version delivered by singing, talking, animatronic sculptures cast from the lead actor’s face.

Taking inspiration from Pasolini’s final film Salo (1975), Monty Python´s Life of Brian (1979) and Rabelais´ novel Gargantua & Pantagruel (1532-64), the script satirises elaborate theological concepts and the idea of cultural recycling in contemporary art. The ideas of reflexivity and circularity – embedded in The Father´s continual ´regeneration´through eating his own excrement and in the script´s systematic transformation of meaning – are mirrored in the presentation of the work as being akin to the different stages of digestion. Giantbum is an essential piece for the Intersection constellation because it represents the visual art – theatre relationship both in its spatiality, taking place in a gallery and a theatre venue as well as in the use of tools – the play and the image.

Bio: Nathaniel Mellors is an artist based in Amsterdam & London. The application of language is a central theme in Mellors´ absurdist scripts, psychedelic theatre, film, video, performance, collage, and sculpture. Mellors also plays bass guitar in the group Advanced Sportswear and is a co-founder of Junior Aspirin Records. In 2009 at the South London Gallery, he put on a one night stage version of his film, The Time Surgeon. He was represented in the Tate Trienniel 2009, Altermodern, by a work Giantbum 2009, based on a story written by him about a party of medieval explorers who lose their way in the body of a giant. The work was also exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and a variant of it at Centro Cultural Montehermoso in Vitoria-Gasteiz. In summer 2009, Mellors was commissioned by the BBC to make a short „work of modern art„ to introduce the final episode of the cultural history series The Seven Ages of Britain, presented by David Dimbleby and directed by Jonty Claypole. Mellors studied at the Ruskin School, Oxford University (1996-99), the Royal College of Art, London (1999-2001), and the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam (2007-09). He is represented by Matt´s Gallery, London; MONITOR, Rome & Galerie Diana Stigter, Amsterdam.

Photo: Nathaniel Mellors, Giantbum, 2008. Video installation with animatronic heads. Courtesy the artist and Matt´s Gallery, London; Galerie Diana Stigter, Amsterdam and MONITOR, Rome. Installation views at Altermodern, Tate Britain, 2009. Photographs by Sam Drake, Tate Photography.

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